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Edward Greenspan

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Edward Greenspan
Greenspan in 2014
Edward Leonard Greenspan

(1944-02-28)February 28, 1944
DiedDecember 24, 2014(2014-12-24) (aged 70)
Alma materUniversity College, Toronto
Osgoode Hall Law School
Occupation(s)Lawyer, legal author

Edward Leonard Greenspan,[1] QC (February 28, 1944 – December 24, 2014)[2] was one of Canada's most famous defence lawyers, and a prolific author of legal volumes.[3] His fame was owed to numerous high-profile clients and to his national exposure on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series (and later a CBC television series) Scales of Justice (1982–94).[2]

Life and career[edit]

A graduate of University College, Toronto (1965) and Osgoode Hall Law School (1968), Greenspan was called to the Ontario Bar in 1970 and was the senior partner of the Toronto law firm of Greenspan Partners LLP.[2] He was a vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He was a member of the Quadrangle Society and a Senior Fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto. Greenspan became a Queen's Counsel in 1982.[4] In 1991 in Boston Massachusetts, he was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Greenspan's work as a criminal defence lawyer was widely recognized in the form of honorary degrees and medals. In 1999 the Law Society of Upper Canada awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws.[5] He was awarded the G. Arthur Martin Medal in 2001.[6] He received a Doctorate of Civil Laws from the University of Windsor in 2002, Assumption University in 2004 and Brock University in 2012. He was awarded the Advocates' Society Medal in 2009[7] and the highest honour to be bestowed on an Ontario Lawyer, the Law Society Medal.

A Canadian of Jewish heritage, Greenspan was a vocal supporter of Israel and related issues. On October 10, 2002, he and fellow Toronto lawyer David C. Nathanson published an opinion piece in the National Post arguing that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency should recognize the Magen David Adom as a charitable organization.

Greenspan was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. In 1986, when the House of Commons of Canada was debating a proposal to reinstate capital punishment in Canada, Greenspan suspended his practice for three months in order to tour the country and debate the issue in any forum available.[8][9] The proposal was ultimately defeated.[10] In 2001 he argued and won a case at the Supreme Court of Canada which barred extradition of people from Canada to face possible capital punishment in other countries.[11]

Greenspan was partners with some of the most accomplished lawyers in Canada. Greenspan's former partners include: Michael Moldaver (Supreme Court of Canada Judge), Marc Rosenberg (Judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal), Marie Henein[12] and Todd B. White. As of 1986, he was reported to have billed $1.1 million for one murder case; when asked to disclose his fee, he suggested the reporter "get charged with a criminal offence, come to my office and I'll be happy to talk to you".[13] Greenspan was an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's criminal justice legislation,[14] including in a 2012 opinion piece in magazine The Walrus[15] and a 2013 opinion piece in newspaper The Globe and Mail.[16]

He was the subject of a documentary film, A Criminal Mind, directed by Barry Avrich.


Greenspan died of heart failure at the age of 70 while vacationing in Phoenix, Arizona in December 2014.[9] Greenspan's funeral was held at Beth Torah Synagogue in Toronto[17] with burial at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said of Greenspan, "Life as a defence lawyer isn't always easy. Edward Greenspan was a larger than life figure in legal circles, our city and country. He was a brilliant lawyer who understood how important it is that everyone have a defence, and he was a tireless champion for human rights. On top of that he was a great citizen and a wonderful human being. On my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of Toronto, I offer my sincere condolences to his family. He will truly be missed."[18]

The Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh reflected on Greenspan's career in fighting for "societies marginalized" as being an inspiration.[19]

Personal and family[edit]

His brother, Brian Greenspan, is also a Canadian lawyer.[20]


Among Greenspan's famous clients were:


Greenspan published or edited over 25 books, including:

  • Greenspan, The Case for the Defence. Autobiography, co-written with George Jonas.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights Canada Law Book, 1982-
  • Counsel for the Defence: the Bernard Cohn Memorial Lectures in Criminal Law Irwin Law, 2005.
  • The Criminal Procedure and Practice. Toronto: Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, 1976- (many later editions).
  • The Dubin Lectures on Advocacy, 1998-2002. Canada Law Book, 2004.
  • Martin's Annual Criminal Code. Toronto: Canada Law Book, [1955] (editor since 1978)
  • Martin's Related Statutes (editor since 1980)
  • Perspectives in Criminal Law: Essays in Honour of John L. J. Edwards, edited by Anthony N. Doob and Edward L. Greenspan. Canada Law Book, 1985.


  1. ^ a b Makin, Kirk (29 November 2003). "The apprenticeship of Eddie Greenspan". The Globe and Mail. p. F3.
  2. ^ a b c Boesveld, Sarah (24 December 2014). "A 'giant': Legendary Canadian defence lawyer Edward Greenspan dies in Phoenix at age 70". The National Post. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  3. ^ Edward L. Greenspan Archived 2014-12-24 at the Wayback Machine whoswholegal.com
  4. ^ Curriculum Vitae Archived 2010-11-11 at the Wayback Machine greenspanpartners.com
  5. ^ "The Law Society of Upper Canada". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Criminal Lawyers' Association - Home". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  7. ^ "The Advocates' Society - Promoting Excellence in Advocacy - Home". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Edward Greenspan (LLB '68) on Defence and the Law". osgoode.yorku.ca. Archived from the original on November 14, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Top criminal attorney Edward Greenspan dies at age 70 of heart failure". CTVNews. 24 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Canada Won't Bring Back Death Penalty". Los Angeles Times. July 1987. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  11. ^ Criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan fell in love with the romance of the law Sean Fine, The Globe and Mail, Dec.25, 2014
  12. ^ Colvin, Jill (5 September 2009). "Bryant fate in hands of 'lawyer's lawyer'". The Globe and Mail. p. A12. Ms. Henein spent most of her career working behind the scenes at Greenspan Henein and White, where she was groomed by Edward Greenspan, arguably the most famous defence lawyer in the country...
  13. ^ a b "Greenspan received $1 million for defence". The Globe and Mail. 14 February 1986. p. A1.
  14. ^ "Edward Greenspan, criminal lawyer and legal pioneer, dead at 70". CBC News Toronto. 24 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  15. ^ Edward L. Greenspan; Anthony N. Doob. "The Harper Doctrine: Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal". The Walrus. No. September 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  16. ^ Edward L. Greenspan; Anthony N. Doob (16 January 2013). "Harper's 'tough on crime' is all torque". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
  17. ^ "Greenspan Funeral to be held Sunday". Talk 640 News. December 27, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  18. ^ Sarah Boesveld; Richard Warnica; Barbara Shecter (24 December 2014). "A 'giant': Legendary Canadian defence lawyer Edward Greenspan dies in Phoenix at age 70". National Post. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  19. ^ Singh, Jagmeet (24 December 2014). "Cant help but feel nostalgic". Facebook. Brampton ON. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  20. ^ Cherry, Zena (27 October 1981). "Poets and publishers party with legal eagles". The Globe and Mail. p. F11.
  21. ^ "Greenspan has been critical before". The Globe and Mail. 3 May 1995. p. A6.
  22. ^ Cox, Kevin. "Nova Scotia judge dismisses all charges in Thornhill case". The Globe and Mail. p. A6. Mr. Thornhill's lawyer, Edward Greenspan of Toronto, said in an interview last night that the case was "a monumental waster of taxpayers' money."
  23. ^ a b Cox, Kevin (3 April 1998). "Regan to stand trial on 9 sex charges". The Globe and Mail. p. A1.
  24. ^ Cox, Kevin (16 March 1995). "Regan seeks inquiry over charges". The Globe and Mail. p. A1.
  25. ^ Cox, Kevin (19 December 1998). "Regan acquitted of sex charges: 'It's been a long ordeal'". The Globe and Mail. p. A1.
  26. ^ "Buxbaum accused change their pleas". The Globe and Mail. Canadian Press. 19 December 1984.
  27. ^ Bielski, Zosia (nd). "Demeter fights to keep DNA out of police hands". National Post. Archived from the original on 2014-12-24. Retrieved 2014-12-24.
  28. ^ Sher, Julian & Marsden, William The Road To Hell How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada Toronto: Alfred Knopf, 2003 pages 356-357.